It was a Big Apple Fantasyland. Finishing touches were still being put in place on New York City’s Hippodrome just hours before its April 12, 1905, opening. Seating 5300 people, it dwarfed the Metropolitan Opera with its 3000 seats. A marvel of theatrical architecture, its stage was 12 times larger than any existing Broadway house and was capable of holding a thousand performers at a time or, perhaps, a full-sized circus complete with clowns and horses and acrobats and a flying elephant or two.
Speaking of Flying Elephants (a Clever Segue to 1992)
Could Mickey Souris really cut it among continental consumers? Would the rodent empire have the necessary je ne sais quoi to win those jaded Gallic hearts and minds? No more guessing or advance planning or idle speculation after D-Day (as in Disney) — April 12, 1992, the day Euro Disney opened its gates in Marne-La-Vallee on the outskirts of Paris. Gladstone Gander or Goofy?
The lucky duck prevailed. The royaume magique became one of Europe’s leading tourist destinations with some 15 million annual visitors. Disney had created another Fantasyland.
Speaking of Disney (a Clever Segue to a Blatant Commercial Message)
Paul wasn’t sure, but the five-foot duck waddling through the throngs of laughing, crying, shouting, whining children appeared to be waddling toward him – a duck with a destination and, perhaps, a mission. Chances are it had spotted him scowling in a land where grinning is the norm, and it, by God, meant to do something about it.
“Enjoying the Magic Kingdom?” asked the duck upon reaching him. Despite its carefully sculpted plastic smile, this duck wasn’t going to cheer anyone up; its voice dripped sarcasm.
“Of course, I am,” Paul answered, adopting his very own duck attitude. “Isn’t that why you’re here? By the way, didn’t I somewhere get the idea that you’re all supposed to be pleasant and cheerful?”
“I’m not even supposed to talk. Just wave.” The duck waved and, in silence, could have passed for pleasant and cheerful, albeit of a fabricated sort.
“Then why did you talk to me?” Paul asked.
“Because you look bored – like you positively hate the place.”
“Ah, you’re not just an ordinary duck, you’re a member of the happiness squad, here to lift my spirits.”
“No,” answered the duck. “I thought you might have a cigarette.”
“That’s an interesting deduction.”
“Well, do you?”
“May I have one?” the duck asked, sitting next to him on the bench.
“Certainly. I’ve never seen a duck smoke before. Rabbits maybe, hedgehogs maybe, but never a duck. Some people might find that a bit weird.”
“I think most people would agree that what’s really weird is someone talking to a duck.”